Jason Fried

March 24, 2021

What I think, not what I thought

A core tenet of how we work at Basecamp is that we make it up as we go, 6-weeks at a time. No big plans beyond that. We have some big picture directional ideas of where we may be headed — like a sailor on an exploratory expedition, aiming for a distant shore — but we're tacking with the prevailing winds, and our whims, until we eventually get somewhere good.

The big advantage to figuring it out as we go is that we can constantly adjust. We don't turn the rudder once every six months, we turn it as often as necessary — sometimes daily. This helps us avoid making big mistakes. We don't have to course correct because we can't actually drift far off course. Small mistakes really don't even qualify as mistakes, they're just decisions we made in the moment. If we need to make a different one in a different moment, we do. Changing our minds doesn't have to come with the kind of deep, arduous justification that's required when you invested heavily in making up your mind the first time.

Yes, we can get something wrong. But by limiting our downside work risk to 6-weeks max on any one project, wrong is typically no big deal. It either doesn't matter much any way, or it's a relatively quick adjustment to get it right.

Most importantly, however, when you make it up as you go, you get to do what you think, not what you thought. All plans are rooted in the past — they're never what you think right now, they're what you thought back then. And at best, they're merely guesses about the future. I know a whole lot more about today, today, than I did three months ago. Why not take advantage of that reality? I don't want to be locked into my previous mind.

So when people ask if this or that is on our roadmap, or if we have plans to do X, Y, or Z, the truth is "if it's not already happening over the next few weeks, I can't say, I don't know, nobody knows yet." Once we finish the current batch of work — work that has to take 6-weeks or less — we'll consider the next batch of work. Only then will we know what we're doing next.

About Jason Fried

Hey! I'm Jason, the Co-Founder and CEO at 37signals, makers of Basecamp and HEY. Subscribe below to follow my thinking on business, design, product development, and whatever else is on my mind. Thanks for visiting, thanks for reading.